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Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy

[ Roud 165 ; Master title: Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy ; Ballad Index E153D ; VWML FK/12/122/2 ; Bodleian Roud 165 ; GlosTrad Roud 165 ; Wiltshire 716 , 1043 ; DT SWTNANCY ; Mudcat 27483 , 55917 ; trad.]

Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy is one of the best-known songs from the repertoire of the Copper Family. It was published in the first issue of the Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, in 1899, and is printed in The Copper Family Song Book and in Bob Copper’s book, A Song for Every Season. Bob and John Copper sang it on their 4 LP box set of 1971, A Song for Every Season, that accompanied the book and Jill Copper and Jon Dudley sang it on the first Coppersongs LP. The Toung Coppers sang it in 2008 on their CD Passing Out. This video shows the Young Coppers live in April 2008 or earlier:

Bob, John and Jill Copper and Jon Dudley also sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 2003 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs and their Australian variants, Song Links. Cathie O’Sullivan sang the Australian variant Lovely Nancy. Paul Adams noted:

Songs of sailors’ farewells to true loves left on shore have been frequent in English folk song tradition at least since the sixteenth century. This version from The Copper Family Song Book, containing songs from the family tradition and others learnt from neighbours, probably derives ultimately, though considerably changed, from a ballad printed in London in 1690. This ballad has something in common with Banks of the Nile. See also the notes to Claudy Banks.

Cathie O’Sullivan sang the corresponding Australian variant Lovely Nancy of which Paul Adams noted:

This is one of the songs that were passed on to Sally Sloane from her Irish grandmother Sarah Alexander. It was recorded from Sally Sloane by John Meredith, and like all Meredith’s field recordings it is held by the National Library of Australia. Cathie O’Sullivan learnt her version of the song from a printed transcription published by Meredith.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1968 for their first duo album, Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1. The record’s sleeve notes comment on this song and on Farewell Nancy:

These songs are on the same theme, and are two of a tremendous body of songs which deal with a sailor leaving his girl-friend to go to sea. Although nowadays these songs have little relevance it must be remembered that at the time they were written people rarely ventured from their own area, and also that sea voyages lasted for a number of years during which time there could be no communication with home. Keeping these facts in mind it is easy to understand why so much of nautical balladry is written on this theme.

Peter Bellamy and Chris Birch sang Here’s Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1969 on Bellamy’s third solo LP, The Fox Jumps Over the Parson’s Gate. He also sang it live at the Folk Studio, Norwich, on 22 June 1971. This concert was published on the LP Won’t You Go My Way?. A.L. Lloyd noted on the first album:

Oldtime sailors are popularly imagined as hairy-chested bawlers, but many of their songs belie this stereotype, for they are often remarkable for tender lyricism, as with this example. It has an amiable history, for it’s one of the first pieces ever noted from the Copper family of Rottingdean, being noted in 1898 by Mrs. Kate Lee from James and Thomas Copper, the grandfathers of well-known Bob and Ron of our day. It was published in the very first issue of the Journal of the Folk Song Society. Some country singers call it The Poor Jolly Sailor Lads, at it comes to us from the eighteenth century.

The Trugs sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1971 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album And Boldly Go to Sea. The last line of this song gave the album its title.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1973 on the Topic LP The Valiant Sailor: Songs and Ballads of Nelson’s Navy.

Derek Sarjeant and Hazel King sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on their 1976 album Hills & Dales.

John Goodluck sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1977 on his Traditional Sound Recordings album Monday’s Childe.

Folly Bridge sang Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1992 on their second WildGoose cassette, Unabridged. Claire Lloyd noted:

Folly Bridge’s version of a traditional English song, originally made popular by the Copper Family, about a man saying his goodbyes before going off to fight for his country in the Royal Navy.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand learned Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy from the singing of the Copper Family and sang it in 1992 on their CD A Present From the Gentlemen.

Julie Henigan sang Adieu My Lovely Nancy on her 1993 cassette American Stranger. She noted:

An Ozarks version of a popular British broadside which apparently travelled to Ireland, as well: the Arkansas woman from whom Max Hunter collected this song commented that her grandfather had learned it in that country “when he was a young child”.

Graham Moore sang Adieu Sweet Nancy on his 1995 album Tom Paine’s Bones.

Brian Peters Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 1998 on his CD The Beast in the Box.

Eliza Carthy sang Adieu, Lovely Nancy in a February 2001 demo recording on her 2020 album The Eliza Carthy Demos. And Blue Murder (Waterson:Carthy plus Coope, Boyes & Simpson) sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 2002 on their CD No One Stands Alone. This recording was also included in 2003 on the Watersons anthology The Definitive Collection.

John Spiers & Jon Boden sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on their 2001 CD, Through & Through. Jon Boden also sang it as the 13 August 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day; in the accompanying blog he wrote: “A classic. I’ve heard many versions but I think my favourite is still Maddy Prior & Tim Hart.”

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Lovely Nancy on their 2002 album Swapping Seasons.

Louis Killen sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 2002 on the Revels CD Homeward Bound.

The Cecil Sharp Centenary Collective sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy in 2003 on their CD As I Cycled Out on a May Morning.

Barry Dransfield sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on his 2005 CD Unruly.

Martin Simpson sang Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on his 2005 CD Kind Letters. This track was also included on the compilation Folk Awards 2006. He noted:

I first heard Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy so long ago that I don’t know where it was or who sang it. Since then it has resurfaced regularly in my consciousness. The Copper Family are the original source. I had a delightful time working with Danú on their contributions to this records, it was as if I had my own organic orchestra. They so beautifully responded to the material and to my arrangement ideas that their work exceeded my heady imaginings.

Pilgrims’ Way sang Adieu Lovely Nancy in 2010 on their eponymous debut EP, Pilgrims’ Way and in 2011 on their CD Wayside Courtesies. They noted:

Learned form the lovely Julie Henigan [of Springfield, Missouri] and collected from Bertha Lauderdale in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this Ozarks version of the popular British broadside is an example of a song that has travelled many miles—and long may it continue to do so.

Tony and Steve Haynes sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on their 2013 CD Special Brew.

Danny Spooner sang Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on his 2014 CD Sailor’s Consolation. He noted:

This thumbnail sketch of shipboard life for Jack Tar comes from the Copper Family of Rottingdean, Sussex. Passed down through their family by the oral tradition, it probably originated as a broadside ballad.

Andy Turner sang Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy as the 18 September 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. Although he referred to Tim Hart and Maddy Prior’s recording in his blog too, he learned the song from the Copper Family.

Kirsty Bromley sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on her 2016 single Absent Mother.

Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on Stick in the Wheel’s 2019 anthology From Here: English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2. They noted:

This is the first song that we learnt together in 2009. When we first met we were getting interested in folk music and doing a few things here and there but this was the first harmony song that we learnt. We learnt it for the singaround we used to go to in Manchester. It was also the first time Laura had sung in public as an adult, the first time that we’d ever sung together, the first time that we’d ever been to a folk singaround, so it was quite nervewracking. which is funny in retrospect, as there were like ten people sat round a table in a pub. But they were very encouraging, and depending on how they reacted to it, it could have totally affected what we did later on. The fact that someone came up to us afterwards and said, keep on singing, and said how good it was, please come back, it was definitely a formative experience. And we learnt it from—well we hadn’t even heard of the Copper Family at that point—it was off that Tim Hart and Maddy Prior album, Folk Songs of Old England. We’d been listening to a bit of Steeleye Span and followed it back to that.

The Wilderness Yet sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy on their 2024 CD Westlin Winds.

Lyrics

The Copper Family sing Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy

Here’s adieu sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
I’m a goin’ around the ocean, love, to seek for something new.
Come change your ring with me dear girl, come change your ring with me,
For it might be a token of true love while I am on the sea.

When I am far upon the sea you’ll know not where I am,
Kind letters I will write to you from every foreign land.
The secrets of your heart dear girl are the best of my good will,
So let your body be where it might my heart shall be with you still.

There’s a heavy storm a-risin’, see how it gathers round,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are a fightin’for the Crown.
There is nothing to protect us love nor to keep us from the cold.
On the ocean wide where we must fight like jolly seamen bold.

There is tinkers, tailors and shoemakers lie a-snorin’ fast asleep,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are a ploughin’ through the deep.
Our officers commanding us and them we must obey,
Expectin’every moment for to get cast away.

But when the wars are all over there’ll be peace on every shore,
We’ll return to our wives and our families and the girls that we adore.
We will call for liquor merrily, we will spend our money free,
And when our money it is all gone we will boldly go to sea.

Tim Hart & Maddy Prior sing Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy

Adieu, sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
I am going across the ocean, love, to seek for something new.
    Come change your ring with me, dear girl,
    Come change your ring with me,
For it might be a token of true love while I am on the sea.

And when I’m far upon the sea you’ll know not where I am.
Kind letters I will write to you from every foreign land.
    The secrets of your heart, dear girl,
    Are the best of my good will,
So let your body be where it might, my heart will be with you still.

There’s a heavy storm arising, see how it gathers round,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are fighting for the crown.
    There’s nothing to protect us, love,
    Or keep us from the cold,
On the ocean wide, where we must fight like jolly seamen bold.

There’s tinkers, tailors, shoemakers, lie snoring fast asleep,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are ploughing through the deep.
    Our officers commanded us,
    And them we must obey,
Expecting every moment for to get cast away.

But when the wars are over, there’ll be peace on every shore,
We’ll return to our wives and our families, and the girls that we adore.
    We’ll drink out liquor merrily,
    And spend our money free,
And when the money is all gone - we’ll boldly go to sea.

Peter Bellamy and Chris Birch sing Here’s Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy

Here’s adieu, sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
I’m a-going around the ocean, love, to seek for something new.
    Come change your ring with me, dear girl,
    Come change your ring with me,
For it might be a token of true love while I am on the sea.

When I am far upon the sea you knows not where I am.
Kind letters I will write to you from every foreign land.
    The secrets of your mind, dear girl,
    Are the best of my good will,
So let my body be where it might, my heart is with you still.

There’s a heavy storm a-rising, see how it gather round,
While we poor sailors are on the sea, are fighting for the crown.
    Our officers commanded us
    And them we must obey,
Expecting every moment for to get cast away.

There are tinkers, tailors and shoemakers, lie snoring in their sleep,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are ploughing through the deep.
    There’s nothing to defend us, love,
    Nor to keep us from the cold,
On the ocean wide, where we must bide like jolly seamen bold.

But when the wars are all over there’ll be peace on every shore,
We will drink to our wives and our children and the girls that we adore.
    We’ll call for liquor merrily,
    And spend our money free,
And when our money it is all gone we’ll boldly go to sea.

Blue Murder sing Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy

Here’s adieu, sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
I’m a-going across the ocean, love, to seek for something new.
    Come change your ring with me, dear girl,
    Come change your ring with me,
For it might be a token of true love while I am on the sea.

When I am far upon the sea you know not where I am.
Kind letters I will write to you from every foreign land.
    The secrets of your mind, dear girl,
    Are the best of my good will,
So let my body be where it might, my heart will be with you still.

There’s a heavy storm a-rising, see how it gathers round,
While we poor sailors are on the sea, are fighting for the crown.
    Our officers commanding us
    And them we must obey,
Expecting every moment for to get cast away.

There are tinkers, tailors and shoemakers, lie snoring fast asleep,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are ploughing through the deep.
    There’s nothing to defend us, love,
    Or to keep us from the cold,
On the ocean wide, where we must bide like jolly seamen bold.

And when the wars are all over there’ll be peace on every shore,
We’ll drink to our wives and our children and the girls that we adore.
    We will call for liquor merrily,
    And spend our money free,
And when our money is all gone we’ll boldly go to sea.

Cathie O’Sullivan sings Lovely Nancy

Adieu my lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
I am going to cross the ocean to seek for something new.
Come change your ring with me, my dear, come change your ring with me,
It will be a token of true love while I am on the sea.

When I am far on the sea and you know not where I am,
Kind letters I will write to you from every foreign land,
With the secrets of my mind, my dear, and the best of my good will,
For let my body be where it will my heart will be with you still.

See how the storm is rising, see how it gathers round,
Whilst we poor jolly jack tars are a-fighting for the crown.
Our captain he commands us, his orders we must obey,
Expecting every moment all to be cast away.

Now the storm is over, and we are safe on shore,
We will drink to our wives and sweethearts, the girls we do adore.
We will call for liquor merrily and spend our money free
And when our money is all gone we’ll boldly go to sea.